“If you want to be cancer-free, don’t forget the blueberry!” is a little ditty I wrote years ago for a Farmers’ Almanac special event. In the intervening years, I’ve learned a lot about various super foods. Yet, the blueberry remains at the top of my go-to super foods list as the healthiest and most delicious.
Blueberries are native to America and readily lend themselves to being the “blue” in many patriotic dishes, so eating them is great way to express your nationalism! Besides July is National Blueberry Month, making it a great time to simultaneously celebrate the utter scrumptiousness and the wholesomeness of blueberries, because they contain an astounding number of health benefits. They are high in fiber and low in calories, and have practically no fat. This makes them perfect for satisfying your appetite and sweet tooth, managing your cholesterol and weight, and maintaining your digestive regularity and heart health.
If you strive to “eat a rainbow” of whole foods each day to help your body get a complete range of nutrients, then blueberries should be a welcome part of your diet. Blueberries get their blue color from plant pigments called anthocyanins. (The same pigments that give the red coloring to the autumn leaves.)
Anthocyanins are among the many polyphenols contained in blueberries. Studies suggest that polyphenols have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties that play an important role in helping to lessen the inflammatory process associated with chronic conditions, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. Not only are polyphenols helpful in preventing health problems, research indicates they promote health by warding off common problems and certain effects of aging, such as age-related cognitive decline.
Blueberries are high in vitamins C, K, and B6, as well as minerals such as phosphorous and manganese.
- Vitamin C is needed for the growth and repair of tissue throughout the body, and is an antioxidant that blocks some of the damage caused by free radicals, thereby promoting a healthy immune system. Blueberries are the fruit that has the highest antioxidant levels.
- Vitamin K is known as the clotting vitamin, because without it blood would not clot. Some studies suggest that it helps maintain strong bones in the elderly.
- Vitamin B6 helps the body to make antibodies needed to fight many diseases; maintain normal nerve function; make hemoglobin to carry oxygen in red blood cells to the tissues; break down proteins; and regulate blood sugar.
- Phosphorus, the second most abundant mineral in the body, is important for growth and cell reproduction. It also helps to break down nutrients.
- Manganese is important for bone and connective tissue formation and for brain and nerve function. It is also involved in fat and carbohydrate metabolism, calcium absorption, and blood sugar regulation.
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